Common goals of neuro-rehabilitation often include outcomes such as improving memory, identifying executive functioning limitations, and addressing many other cognitive deficits that patients may experience after traumatic injuries. With the adaptation of digital technology in music and an ethos of inclusion for all, these rehabilitation aims can be addressed in a way that is meaningful and motivating to the patient; through DJing and music production
Rehabilitation is most effective when it is meaningful and purposeful to individuals. This was the ethos behind the development of the BPM Rehab programme; bringing together expertise from a neuropsychologist and DJ education specialist, to create the first DJ for rehabilitation programme. BPM Rehab DJ Training Academy is a nationwide network of tutors offering music education courses accredited by many notable organisations, including the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), the London College of Music, the University of West London and the AQA Unit award scheme.
The training academy currently offers activities including DJing, singing and music production. Attendees begin with a 1ten-week programme, that is finely tailored to the aspirations and needs of the individual. They are provided with entry level equipment that meets industry standards and exam criteria. There is then the opportunity for students to turn their passion into a career, with guidance through DJing Grades 1, 3 and 5, as well as professional performances at festivals and corporate events. However, if learners wish to continue DJing recreationally this is also encouraged with full support from the staff at BPM Rehab.
The ethos underpinning all activities is inclusivity and access for all. Therefore, the staff at BPM Rehab can cater sessions to accommodate a variety of accessibility needs including visual impairment, reduced mobility/dexterity, and cognitive problems. Modern DJing has a multitude of rehabilitation benefits, including motor/co-ordination skills, visual processing, attention, concentration, memory, executive functioning skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
Learners at BPM Rehab have often experienced traumatic brain injuries and memory deficits are commonly observed within this clinical group (Trayner, 2022). DJing supports memory and learning in a number of ways. It promotes the learner to remember the order of tracks in their set and recall different music genres and songs to include in mixes. The prevalence of working memory deficits is typically higher within those with Special Educational Needs and Difficulties (SEND), in comparison to the general population (Atkinson et al., 2021), therefore it is essential that individuals are equipped with transferrable strategies during their rehabilitation. DJs are required to listen to tracks and count musical elements such as beats and bars simultaneously. Regularly challenging themselves in a safe and supportive environment has led to many learners showing significant improvement in these areas throughout their initial ten-week programme.
Rehabilitation through DJing targets psychomotor co-ordination and processing speed when the learner is required to coordinate auditory input with cue timing (Trayner, 2022). The skills output is essential for successful track cuing, this can be done utilising a variety of different methods including drop mixing.
Attention is typically considered in terms of four sub-systems: divided attention, switching attention, selective attention, and sustained attention. Modern DJing techniques require all aspects of attention, making it a great tool to utilise when working with patients who have goals to address their attention/concentration (Trayner, 2022). When learners initially select music (tracks) as part of a performance (set), they must focus on specific elements such as the beat and tempo to ensure that the tracks are suitable, this requires selective attention. Divided attention is required when concentrating on two tracks simultaneously, to ensure a seamless transition (mixing). Mixing can be achieved utilising a variety of techniques, but often the equaliser levels and volume must be adjusted accordingly, which requires switching attention. As a beginner, learners will perform short DJing sets to build up their skill base, and the length of the sets will increase as the learner becomes more proficient, building their sustained attention. Auditory attentional skills are also vital to track song progress, locate points to mix tracks and spaces to add sound effects.
Modern DJing promotes visual processing by utilising various visual software displays including digital media players to search for music and other platforms to view information about tracks including waveforms (Trayner, 2022).
Executive functions are higher level cognitive processes that facilitate behaviour, particularly in unfamiliar situations (Gilbert & Burgess, 2008). Executive functioning underpins many processes necessary for everyday living including planning, decision making, behavioural control, emotional control, problem solving and organisation. Executive dysfunction is commonly observed within individuals who have sustained brain injuries, and therefore is often a target to address within rehabilitation (Gioia & Isquith, 2004). Many executive functioning skills are essential in DJing, making it a useful tool when a learner presents with executive dysfunction.
When creating a DJing set, choosing the style and atmosphere of the music to be included is essential to take the listener on a journey (Trayner, 2022), this often requires extensive planning skills which learners develop over the course of their DJ training.
As well as choosing the style and atmosphere of a set, learners must employ good decision-making techniques when choosing the appropriate mixing points within songs. As beginners this will largely be aided by their DJing tutor, however, they will encourage more independence over time.
Typically, the client group at BPM Rehab present with limitations in inhibition and behavioural control. This is targeted within their DJing practice as they must inhibit impulsive behaviour in order to play and mix tracks successfully.
Learning a new skill can often be challenging, as there are many competing demands to manage simultaneously. It is imperative that the learners must meet these requirements whilst staying calm and this requires emotional control (Trayner, 2022). This can be difficult for the learners at first but becomes much easier over time. These skills are then transferable outside of lessons to contribute to better emotional regulation in everyday life.
Once learners have attended a few sessions and become more proficient within their DJing skills, they may begin to make longer mixes of songs, and attempting to transfer between songs seamlessly utilising taught techniques. During this process, mistakes may be made, and things may go wrong, as a result, tutors encourage real world problem solving and will explore coping skills with the learner which are transferable to other demanding situations.
A target for learners within their DJing lessons is to be able to create set lists and tracks, diarise lessons and events and keep up to date with modern practices. Tutors encourage the use of strategies including diaries, planners, and checklists, which are commonly encouraged for those that have limitations with organisation skills (Trayner, 2023). Their DJing lessons provide a meaningful and motivational reason to employ these techniques which are transferable and helpful within their wider life.
All rehabilitation programmes must be relevant, meaningful, and motivating, therefore whilst cognitive benefits are important to consider, emotional benefits are equally important when considering a holistic rehabilitation. DJing has a popular peer perception therefore it is an excellent tool to reconnect with society when meaningful social relationships may have previously been lost. BPM Rehab also provide opportunities for social engagement, such as an annual Brain Bootcamp where learners can interact with peers that have a shared interest in DJing and music. This is extremely meaningful to learners who may have lost opportunities to connect with other people e.g., if they can’t play team sports anymore. Modern DJing utilises accessible technology that also allows learners to achieve at a faster rate than traditional DJing techniques, leading to positive views of self-worth.
BPM Rehab is always accepting new learners, for a unique, unforgettable experience contact Mark on the following link: https://www.bpm.rehab/contact
Charlotte Giblin, assistant psychologist, Clinical Neuropsychology Services
Dr Penny Trayner, clinical neuropsychologist, Clinical Neuropsychology Services. Co-founder, BPM Rehab.
DJ Mark One, co-founder, BPM Rehab.
Atkinson, A. L., Allen, R. J., & Waterman, A. H. (2021). Exploring the understanding and experience of working memory in teaching professionals: A large-sample questionnaire study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 103, 103343.
Gilbert, S. J., & Burgess, P. W. (2008). Executive function. Current biology, 18(3), R110-R114.
Gioia, G. A., & Isquith, P. K. (2004). Ecological assessment of executive function in traumatic brain injury. Developmental neuropsychology, 25(1-2), 135-158.
Norman, A., Holloway, M., Odumuyiwa, T., Kennedy, M., Forrest, H., Suffield, F., & Dicks, H. (2020). Accepting what we do not know: A need to improve professional understanding of brain Injury in the UK. Health & Social Care in the Community, 28(6), 2037-2049.
Trayner, P. (2022). 9 Harnessing Technology to Level the Playing Field. Systemic Approaches to Brain Injury Treatment: Navigating Contemporary Practice, 15.
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